Bridging the skills gap
Tackle the skills gap with AI
A license to skill
Let them use their skills
01. Tackle the skills gap with AI
While the skills gap has been an ongoing agenda point for HR for many years now, the events of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic have further intensified the challenge and companies are urgently seeking solutions to address the problem. AI can be one of them.
Cyril Le Mat, Director of Data Science, Cornerstone
A recent study from Cornerstone found that whilst employers are increasingly prioritising skills development of their employees, there remains a confidence gap between employers and their people when it comes to skills. 90% of leaders feel confident in their ability to develop skills but only 60% of employees feel confident in their organisation’s ability to develop their skills for the future. With 2021 bringing further uncertainty, now is the time for companies to think outside the box and turn to smarter solutions.
AI has become a crucial tool across the business world, from helping to develop products to providing new insights into marketing efforts, but AI’s potential in HR to assist skills development remains elusive. According to Deloitte, AI is mainly used in organisations to improve consistency and quality, with only 16% of organisations using AI to improve insights of workers. In order to truly address the skills gap, HR must understand how to squeeze out all the potential AI has to offer. So, what are the ways that AI can help skills development?
“Apart from automation, AI can uncover trends and make predictions”
1. Identifying learning opportunities
Learning is integral to narrowing the skills gap yet lack of training is often cited as one of the main reasons for employees leaving their organisation. But whilst learning programmes are indeed in place in organisations, the question is whether these are the right learning programmes for employees. Each employee has different learning requirements, career paths and goals, some of which are unknown to the employees themselves. Gathering and processing data on employee profiles and current learning programmes, AI can then analyse the value these programmes have for each employee. Organisations can consequently provide competency-based recommendations and personalise learning opportunities to each individual and their goals.
2. Internal mobility
External recruitment is often seen as a one-way ticket out of the skills gap, but whilst hiring new recruits can provide a fresh set of perspectives and skills, existing employees can also possess and provide the same required abilities if the opportunity is presented to them. AI can be used to gain insights into the current skill sets of your employees and where these skills might be useful in other areas of the business – providing new internal recruitment opportunities. Categorising employees’ competencies and having the data in one place also allows HR to better understand and make quicker decisions about which roles require internal or external recruitment.
3. Predicting future talent requirements
One of the primary features of AI is its ability to make predictions. For HR, this can be utilised both for employees and their future learning opportunities and for the business and its future talent requirements. To do this, companies must have interpretable career and employee data to be able to formulate models and make meaningful predictions. For example, if an employee has previous experience in data analytics but is currently in a sales role, could they be a good match for a job in marketing and are they likely to succeed in a career switch? Is there a possibility that they could leave the company? These are all questions that AI can provide a perspective on. It’s important to note, though, that externally inputted bias is taken into account when assessing employee data and AI products and algorithms must be routinely evaluated to alleviate any potential bias against race, gender, age etc. Having predictions at hand means that companies can be one step ahead and make crucial decisions to prepare for the future.
4. Data-driven decisions
AI solutions are cross-functional, and the interpretations they provide can also be used to gain understanding and drive outcomes across a wide variety of flexible and changing situations. Whilst utilising AI in HR primarily impacts employees and their learning requirements, the findings and patterns generated by algorithms can also help make decisions for the wider business. For example, if HR were to use AI to uncover real-time market trends around key skills, this knowledge can then be used to make wider decisions on how to improve departments within the business. For instance, if there are positive trajectories in skills that your organisation currently doesn’t account for, is there a way they can be used? Unlocking unknown skills in the market could be the key innovator to improve a whole department or business unit.
There’s no doubt that AI will continue to dominate the business world in the next year and beyond and it has great potential to become more than just a streamlining tool, especially in HR. Having a greater understanding of AI and the benefits it brings to people and their organisations will allow HR professionals to see the overall value of the technology. It should also be said that even though AI brings an element of automation to the role of HR, it will never erase the human element of human resources. Ultimately, whilst AI can uncover trends and predictions it is up to humans to decide on how those findings can then be applied to the organisation. By embracing the power of AI, HR can truly make a difference to the workplace and futureproof their organisation.
02. A licence to skill
Lack of confidence
In a recent survey among 500 business leaders and 1.000 employees around the globe, Cornerstone found that 90% of leaders feel confident in their ability to develop skills, yet many employees are losing hope and feel they’re falling behind. The way out is to create a clear, practical path forward for skills development, the authors of the report write.
Many employees are prevented in performing optimally in their jobs because of information overload, repetitive tasks, and forced multitasking. Technology and clear expectations about priorities can change this trend.
Wasted time and disengaged employees rack up trillions of dollars in lost productivity every year. But before you can start getting that money back, you have to confront the real factors behind this lost productivity.
People are bombarded daily with information from email inboxes, app notifications, and the internet. And that’s on top of all the information they need to get their job done. When this overload happens, employees’ ability to process tasks and make smart, quick decisions declines. Email is one of the top causes of information overload.
That’s unfortunate, considering how many work cultures reward constant availability, responsiveness, and inbox zero. Constant connectivity might seem to boost productivity, but in the long run it erodes everyone’s ability to work well. And don’t think this is just a lower-level employee issue. A survey by Flock found that high-level executives are even more likely to suffer from information overload.
“Office workers spend 69 working days completing administrative or repetitive tasks”
Despite the obvious importance of meaningful work, a global productivity study by Unit4 found that ‘on average, office workers spend approximately 552 hours a year (69 working days) completing administrative or repetitive tasks.’ In other words, your employees’ energy is wasted on unfulfilling, boring, and ultimately demotivating work.
What we call multitasking is really context switching—moving our full attention from task to task very quickly. We look productive doing it, but it really makes us far less productive. This context switching is one of the more invisible and dangerous factors affecting employee productivity. It not only hurts productivity, it hurts long-term intelligence and attention span as well. When you switch tasks—to respond to an interruption, check email, or take care of an urgent matter—it takes you almost half an hour to return your attention to the original task.
How to tackle these challenges?
The price tags on information overload, repetitive work, and multitasking are high enough to get anyone’s attention. Both the problem and the solution come down to the environment. When people can work the way they’re wired to work, everyone benefits. But to create that kind of environment, organizations need to rethink the way they do work
Help employees dealing with information overload
We wish there was a way to magically cut down on the information bombarding your employees. But since there isn’t, the next best thing is creating frameworks for processing all that information. When it comes to email, there are a few ways to help your employees:
- Create prioritization guidelines
Help employees understand how to prioritize important work instead of losing their focus to urgent but unimportant tasks (such as responding quickly to emails).
- Create rules for email
Rules such as when (and when not) to copy someone on an email or reply all will cut down on a lot of emails. Encourage employees to write actionable emails so that colleagues can process them efficiently.
- Leverage tools to streamline email management.
From simple inbox automation to full automation platforms, there are many ways you can use technology to reduce your employees’ mental load.
Reduce repetitive work
The specifics of reducing repetitiveness and increasing meaningful work will look different for every company, but here’s where you can start:
- Audit your business processes
Inefficient processes lead to repetitive work. Review your organization’s workflows to look for silos, outdated systems, and redundancies. This will naturally cut down on repetitive work.
- Automate ‘robotic’ work
Employees who are stuck doing the same boring tasks all day often feel like robots. So why not add some software robots to the team to handle the repetitive work? Robots free your employees to focus on more meaningful, challenging work, and employee engagement will improve.
- Build variety into your employees’ work
Studies have shown that workers who are able to change the sequence of repetitive tasks do not become bored or resentful as quickly. Make sure your employees have the freedom to vary their task schedules if possible.
Emphasize mindful work
Multitasking fractures attention and prevents employees from doing their best work. To fix the damage caused by this constantly-distracted work state, you’ll need to replace your multitasking company culture with a mindful one.
- Let your employees know it’s okay to say no
it’s okay not to respond to emails right away; it’s okay to close your office door; it’s okay to book a conference room for yourself if you need to knock out a high-value project. Employees who are empowered to set boundaries are employees who can focus.
- Create a culture that emphasizes important work over ‘busyness’
Employees won’t pursue mindful work if your company rewards those who are ‘always on’ over those who set thoughtful boundaries around their attention.
- Communicate priorities clearly
If leadership overloads employees with multiple projects and no guidelines for prioritization, employees will inevitably multitask. Instead, make expectations and priorities clear. Your workers will thank you with better focus, and putting their skills to better use.